Everyday Harassment on TV

Sexual harassment is in the news.  Politicians use their positions of power to force their will on vulnerable persons.  Hollywood moguls?  Tales about casting couches are certainly nothing new.  Are we surprised to learn that star power individuals might want to get in on the action?

The Silence Breakers deserve their recognition.  The public outcry is justified — overdue.  But is it enough? And are we addressing the mixed messages popular culture is broadcasting?

When I am in my car with my grandchildren, they like to listen to the radio stations popular with the young.  Sometimes I have to switch it off.  I don’t think I am anything close to a prude, but the sexually explicit lyrics shock me.  The F-word might get bleeped but you can still hear some graphic descriptions of sex acts in the lyrics.  They make it sound nasty.

Television, and not just cable and not just ads, is a whole other story.   All of a sudden I am aware of how sexualized this ubiquitous media is.  I found some numbers to confirm my impression.

Portrayals of sex and sexual relationships are prevalent in mainstream media. Analyses estimate that sexual content appears in approximately 85% of major motion pictures (Jamieson, More, Lee, Busse, & Romer, 2008), 82% of television programs (Fisher, Hill, Grube, & Gruber, 2004), 59% of music videos (Turner, 2011), and 37% of music lyrics (Primack, Gold, Schwarz, & Dalton, 2008).


Lots of the sexual content is implied, sly innuendo.  Lots of it is found in popular sitcoms and we laugh along with the canned audience.  It’s not porn, but I can’t help but think it is normalizing something of a tee-hee, wink-wink, boys will be boys, girls will be sluts mentality.

I remember as a kid (naive to be sure) thinking TV was a reflection of reality to the extent that I wondered why I was the only one in the world who did not have Donna Reed for a mom, an Anderson or a Cleaver family.  Is Two and a Half Men anymore representative of reality?  If my grandson watches that or similar shows will he think sexual harassment is normal and acceptable?

I don’t think TV needs to be the fairytale, sexless la-la land it may have been in the beginning, but is there no middle ground?  And where are the shows depicting women and men confronting offensive behaviors, showing children and adults how to deal effectively with unwanted attention?

I don’t watch that much TV, so maybe I am wrong.


5 thoughts on “Everyday Harassment on TV

  1. I don’t gravitate to tv shows like that, other than Game of Thrones, so I can’t speak to that. Sorry you find it so disturbing, and I can totally understand why.


  2. Actually I have noticed sexual harassment as a theme on certain shows recently. Blue Bloods has explored it fairly often, and it was an issue in the last episode of the Good Doctor, last week. I agree with you that it is too often depicted as a joke in situation comedies and irresponsible sexual expression is a theme that runs through entertainment.

    I will say however that if you watch old movies, it is amazing, as everyone puffs away on their cigarettes, women are usually treated as complete helpless ditzes who need a strong man to help them with every decision. In some ways our culture has improved. But, you are right, there should be a middle ground where sex is respected not grabbed.


  3. I am really glad I don’t have access to the cable shows that are so popular. I get weary over the language which is geared for the 11 year old to college age boy. Writers really have it easy these days. They just need to know how to use F word as a noun, verb, adjective and adverb. Kind of miss the sly innuendo. Now days everything is spelled out.
    The lyrics of some songs really paint women in a dreadful light. Makes me wonder what will happen when these younguns grow up. Sigh.


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